Is your car angry or happy?

I'd like to call your attention to the redesigned front end of the 2010 Mazda3. I drive the previous version, and I like it enough at 100,000 miles to consider buying a new one down the road. But this ...I don't know if I could handle it.

First, my car:

And now the new car, "smiley":AUUUGGH!

Why is this so strange? Like pop music(*), cars are rarely happy. When cars are anthropomorphized, they're usually made to look angry or aggressive. Consider sports cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, BMW M3, Dodge Viper, etc. Grr! Maybe people want their cars to scowl so other drivers will be warned in advance of their intentions. Driving is packed full of nonverbal communication, at least if you do it consciously. One reason people sink so much money into cars (hands down the worst investment you're making) is to keep their image consistent with the rest of their driving style.

But Mazda has done this before. The first-generation Miata had a cheeky smile. Now that I think of it, the happiest pop music in my collection is also Japanese. The genre is called Shibuya-kei, and its atmosphere reflects the optimism and energy of post-WWII growth.

Maybe the reason there are so few happy-looking cars, and so little happy music, is the myth that happy people are stupid. Walk around at work smiling and someone may hand you an extra task. Drive a seething red mask and maybe people won't cut you off. Good luck with that.

(*)Pop music: Remember grunge? Emo? Punk? Now try to think of a happy pop song. If you can (OK: the Pelican West album by Haircut 100), then try to think of a happy pop genre. BZZT, time's up.